2020 is Donald Trump’s
annus horribilis

The U.S. presidency has been plagued by a series of adversities this year

By Byron Toben

Back in 1992, Queen Elizabeth referred to that year as her annus horribilis, what with a fire destroying 100 rooms at Windsor Castle and various semi-scandals (Fergie’s toe sucking, etc.)

Those events pale in comparison to what U.S. President Donald J. Trump has experienced so far in 2020. The culmination is the publication of John Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened.

Trump and Zelensky -

John Bolton had disassociated himself from what he viewed as the Trump administration’s effort to pressure Ukraine into investigating the President’s political rivals – Image: The White House from Washington, DC / Public domain

But first, a brief list of other Trump expose books leading up to this one. There are 14 negative accounts vs. 6 favourable ones. Here is a list of the negative:

Not a book, but an article in The New Yorker where Tony Schwartz, credited as a ghostwriter for Trump on the 1987 The Art of The Deal claims he wrote most of it, now regrets it and presages the failings that are documented in the books below:

Devil’s Bargain by Joshua Green

Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff
Media Madness by Howard Kurtz
Trumpocracy by David Frum
It’s Even Worse Than You Think by David Johnston
The Trump White House by Ronald Kessler
Under Fire by April Ryan
Fear by Bob Woodward

Team of Vipers by Cliff Sims
Kushner, Inc. by Vicky Ward
A Warning by Anonymous
A Very Stable Genius by Phillip Rucker and Carol Leonnig

Trumpapocalypse by David Frum
The Room Where It Happened by John Bolton
Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L. Trump (to be released later this year)

Further contributing to Trump’s annus horribilis were developments with Never Trump Republicans, the Military, the Judiciary, the explosion of Black Lives Matter and, sadly, himself.

Never Trump Republicans

In 2020, a group of prominent life long Republicans – George Conway, Steven Schmidt, John Weaver and Rick Wilson – formed The Lincoln Project. Besides endorsing Democrat nominee Joe Biden, they have posted several biting videos – Unfit, Mourning in America and Flag of Treason – and sponsored a podcast Republicans defeating Donald Trump.

Other such Republicans have since then joined them – Jennifer Horn, Ron Steslow, Stuart Stevens, Reed Galen and Mike Madrid.

Deemed RINOS (Republicans in Name Only) by Trump, they have seemingly inspired Democratic publicists to also play harder.

Trump on his way to St. John’s Episcopal church-

Trump on his way to St. John’s Episcopal church, General Mark Milley on his right – Image: The White House from Washington, DC / Public domain

The Military

In 2017, Trump called an assembled gathering of top Generals “losers, dopes and babies”. In recent weeks, high-ranking military officers have publicly criticized his leadership. They are: General James Mattis, ex. Secretary of defence; Admiral Mark Mullen, ex. Chair of Joint Chiefs of Staff and General Colin Powell, ex. Secretary of State.

Also, General Mark Milley (chair of Joint Chiefs) and Mark Esper (Secretary of Defence) have both apologized for participating in sending troops into the street in Washington to disperse peaceful protesters for a church photo op.

Remember, Senator Joe McCarthy’s excessive red-baiting rise to power turned in 1954 when he started attacking the army.

The judiciary

Despite Trump’s packing the Supreme Court with conservative-leaning judges, it voted this week in favour of gay rights and against sending DACA youth away.
Black Lives Matter

The sad “murder” of George Floyd by a Minneapolis Policeman, caught on video by a 17- year-old girl, ignited mass protests in every state of the union as well as most major cities around the world, including Canada. Although there have been similar events throughout the decades, none caught the public imagination so much as this one, reminding us of Victor Hugo’s maxim, “There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” (Hugo was the author of both Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

… the use of unidentified black-clad enforcers to use clubs, tear gas and helicopter backwash to disperse peaceful protesters on a public street so Trump could use a church lawn to say… nothing, just a photo op with an upside-down Bible, may be the ‘tipping point’ for many independent voters.


New Technology has aided presidents: Radio for Franklin Delano Roosevelt; TV for John Fitzgerald Kennedy; Internet for Barack Obama and Twitter for Donald Trump.

Even the unceasing torrent of twittering by Trump, the use of childish nicknames for others and refusal to admit the slightest mistake gave proof to circus promoter P. T. Barnum’s adage, “There is no such thing as bad publicity”.

However, the use of unidentified black-clad enforcers to use clubs, tear gas and helicopter backwash to disperse peaceful protesters on a public street so Trump could use a church lawn to say… nothing, just a photo op with an upside-down Bible, may be the “tipping point” for many independent voters.

Feature image: President Trump visits St. John’s Episcopal Church –  The White House from Washington, DC / Public domainBouton S'inscrire à l'infolettre –

Read more articles from Byron Toben

Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.

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There are 3 comments

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  1. Andrew Burlone

    In recent months, the US president has been piling up politically difficult cases, including impeachment proceedings, the coronavirus crisis, and the plummeting economy. While he was happy to have escaped impeachment, Donald Trump suddenly found himself in the grip of a health crisis that has claimed many, many lives, and he now has to deal with a severely depressed economy. His handling of the health crisis caused him to lose points in the polls, and his main argument for re-election – a dynamic economy – no longer holds water. Yet, since his debut in the White House, the president has consistently beaten all predictions.

  2. Andrea Sabeli

    Donald Trump is under attack on several fronts. First of all, the Supreme Court is the second time this week that the country’s highest court has ruled against his opinion. On Monday, it extended the rights of gay and transgender employees. And on Thursday, it ruled that the US President’s decision to cancel the DACA program was “capricious” and “arbitrary”. The head of state is therefore making it a personal matter and choosing the victim strategy.

    Second, the President is faced with the explosive revelations of the book to be published by his former National Security Advisor, John Bolton. The good sheets are already out: Bolton accuses, among other things, the American president of having sought China’s help to win his re-election in November, and denounces the White House’s chaotic management of international affairs.

    John Bolton’s leaks and statements fuel the image of an incompetent president – “unfit” to preside, mocked by his own ministers or advisers, and above all who puts his thirst for re-election ahead of the interests of his country. Donald Trump’s conversations with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping reflect not only the inconsistencies in his trade policy but also the interconnection in Trump’s mind between his own political interests and the American national interest.

    After a brief truce in the trade war between the two giants, COVID-19 brought a new chill to Sino-American relations. The Trump administration repeatedly accused Beijing of having concealed the extent of the epidemic and thus being responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide. On Twitter, the US president again said on Thursday that he was considering severing relations with the Asian giant, indicating that “cutting all bridges with China”, including economic ones, was an option.

    Finally, another bad news for the American president: the coronavirus is back in the news. The virus is on the rise in 23 states – more than half the country – even though for the eighth day in a row the daily death toll has fallen below 1,000. His handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 118,000 people and caused 2.2 million cases in the United States, has come under fire.

    But in this bad patch, the president remains combative. He is returning blow for blow as usual. The president is determined to rebuild his base as his popularity plummets. He is relying on Supreme Court decisions, among other things, as evidence that he needs to be re-elected to appoint more conservative judges who will rule in his favour.

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